Most of us imagine that Yom Kippur, which begins tonight, is the most important Jewish moment in the calendar. The stark chant of “Kol Nidre” touches our soul in a way that no other prayer does during the year. And while most congregants stand at that moment in the service, gazing at the Torah scrolls arrayed before them, I am usually facing the congregation, seeing the pain of the past year in the faces of those gathered.
There are, in my opinion, four important moments through the day. First, we come together in the evening as we seek to separate from the obligations which went unfulfilled by owning our behaviors and pledging to do better. After hearing those words which annul our vows, we beat our chest for each sin committed, intentionally or unintentionally, personally or communally. We leave in the evening, worn out and ready for “Tikkun – repair”.
Second, we gather in the afternoon and listen to the words of Jonah. God calls to Jonah and instead of him standing tall and saying “Hineini”, he turns and runs and hides. Claiming that it is not his job to make the world a better place, he boards a ship and sails away. God finds him and reminds him that he cannot hide. The call to service is real and the need is great. What God expects from us is a collective “Hineini”.
Third, we settle in to remember. Yizkor is a special moment in the day for me as I remember the great sacrifices and contributions so many have made to enable us to gather and worship together. It’s about our own lives and the shoulders upon which we stand. It is about all those in our lives who have answered the call before us and helped us get to where we are today. Yizkor for me, is a humbling moment where I can really connect to my ancestors and friends who remain present to me, even after their deaths.
Finally, we arrive to Neilah. I see, in my mind’s eye, the gates to the year ahead. At the end, I imagine running toward those gates, trying to get through them before they are locked for another year. All the soul work that I have done for the past 40 days, comes down to the final moments of the final service of the season of repentance. Maybe it’s why there is a custom to stand for the entire service. We must be ready to cross through the gates.
I look forward to seeing you during the day, in person or virtually. Use this time to cleanse, to shed the year that has past and to embrace the year unfolding before us. Dora and I wish you and yours an easy fast for those that do, and a fresh start for all so that that 5782 will be the year of sweetness that we all week.
Gamar Chatimah Tovah!
May you be sealed in the Book of Life for blessing